Among the topics Ballard covered was his admiration and respect for Colts’ All-Pro offensive guard Quenton Nelson—specifically regarding his leadership, passion for the game, and his work as a consummate teammate and as the ultimate competitor:
“Quenton is a pretty rare competitor,” Ballard commented. “He’s pretty rare. He does it with his, I’d say he’s growing vocally. But in terms of his care, he might be the best, as good of a teammate as I’ve ever been around. In terms of care for others, wanting them to do well, and then his passion for the game.”
Specifically, Ballard recalled a time this past season ahead of Week 5 against the Kansas City Chiefs where his roster was depleted by injuries, but the team was still doing its best to practice and prepare ahead of its tough matchup on the road against the eventual Super Bowl Champions.
In particular, Nelson was ‘very vocal’ about having to practice against an undersized practice squad defensive end attempting to play defensive tackle—with Chiefs’ All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones set to line up across from him on Sunday night primetime:
“We’re playing Kansas City this year (Ballard chuckles), this is what I love about him, and I love it when players give me crap,” Ballard recalled. “So we’ve had a bunch of injuries that week, and we’ve got like a small defensive end playing the three-technique (defensive tackle) on the scout team, and he [Nelson] comes sprinting by me.”
‘What the $%@#, Ballard,’ Nelson shouted. ‘We’re playing Chris Jones, and you’ve got a 230 pound defensive end. How the hell am I supposed to get better?’
“He sprints back,” Ballard chuckles. “People’s eyes are about that big as he’s yelling at me. Boy, I love that. That’s great. That’s good stuff.”
“He’s passionate. He’s passionate, and it bleeds to his teammates.”
Perhaps this was the turning point for Ballard acquiring All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner earlier this offseason—for Nelson to practice against and ‘get better’.
However, it’s not just that Nelson is the big bodied, rough-and-tumble enforcer along the interior offensive line that Colts fans have immediately fallen in love with since being selected with the 6th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
The Colts’ young superstar offensive guard never makes it about himself and is always looking to deflect any attention to his teammates—showing a general level of concern for his own guys in horseshoe blue:
“So his first year, he makes the Pro Bowl,” Ballard notes. “Frank (Reich) and I call him, and (say), ‘Hey Quenton, it’s Chris (and Frank), congrats, you made the Pro Bowl!’”
“Nelson responds, ‘What about Ryan Kelly? Did Ryan Kelly make the Pro Bowl? What about (Anthony) Castonzo?’ It wasn’t about him. He never makes it about him. It’s always about his teammates, and that’s what makes him a really, really unique player.”
It’s those special qualities that make Nelson a great teammate in addition to already being a great player on the field. (We’ve already seen him firsthand race downfield to lend a helping hand to a downed teammate on the turf).
Still only 24 years old, Nelson can arguably be considered the Colts ‘face of the franchise’ right now and should be a franchise cornerstone for plenty of years to come.
Even if he doesn’t always use an ‘inside voice’ with his general manager.